Rules for writing

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Tweets, status updates, videos, animations and many other must-have skills have all become part of the daily tools for people working in PR.

As the number of communications channels proliferate comms professionals need more skills than ever before to engage with their publics effectively.

The way people access information, connect socially and interact with news has been revolutionised over that past decade and the communications industry has changed to match this.However, one of the most basic and vital skills remains the ability to write clear and concise copy for a range of different channels. Being able to write well for a range of different audiences is a difficult skill to master but is just as important as it’s ever been.

I was reminded of this by something on Radio 4 that mentioned Orwell’s rules for writing. While I think they are probably somewhat tongue in cheek and might not make for the most riveting prose (Orwell himself regularly broke them) they are very useful for public sector communicators looking to convey complex information in a usable way.

In fact they are much better suited to business writing when you are trying to make dry, detailed policy issues more accessible to a a general audience.

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For something from a more modern author you could take some cues from the prolific novelist Elmore Leonard who transcended genre writing and focused mainly on characterisation.

His best advice is to leave out the parts readers will skip and he signs off with “if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” See his ten rules for writing here

As well as the written word the process of storytelling, which would have traditionally been in print, is just as relevant as ever. Different channels have their own rules of course but having a good understanding of how you would ‘write things up’, provides an excellent starting point for thinking about how to tell your story in an engaging way.

This led me back to something I read when I first moved to communications from journalism by the legendary ad man David Ogilvy. This blog sets out his 10 rules for writing in a modern context and is well worth a read: click here

Unless you’re a journalist writing everyday then these skills can become rusty which is why blogging is an excellent way of keeping yourself tuned up and in practice.

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